Frank Turner - Love Ire & Song
Record Label: Xtra Mile Recordings/Epitaph
Release Date: March 31, 2008
There's always been a link between punk and folk. It all started from a common ideal: punk originated principally as an anti-establishment movement, concerned with youthful rebellion and idealistic attempts to change the world for the better; folk had Bob Dylan (and others like him). This sums it all up pretty well, and while this thematic link may have been diluted over the years by the explosion of pop-punk bands and the commercialisation of folk music, it has still been a common stylistic shift for punk singers looking to broaden their horizons. Mike Ness, Chuck Ragan and Dustin Kensrue have all proved it is possible, but undoubtedly one of the finest examples that can be found is Love Ire & Song, the second solo album by ex Million Dead vocalist Frank Turner.
Lyrically the album is practically flawless. Turner seems to have the ability to make almost any sentence both poetic and accessible. "Reasons Not To Be An Idiot" is an excellent example: "He's not as clever as he likes to think. He's just ambitious with his arguing. He's crap at dancing and he can't hold his drink. Deep down he's just like everybody." Many people can write a beautiful poetic line, although sometimes they are seen as guilty pleasures, too pretentious and soft to be talked about over a pint when you're chatting about music. What makes Turner's lyrics so incredible is that you can imagine absolutely anyone having no problem reciting them: they are fundamentally relatable. This is something you would say, if only you had the ability to express it in such an artistic way. Examples of this flow fast and thick throughout the album: the closing to "I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous" is exactly the way I want to live my life, "Substitute" is the most sincere yet least sappy love song I've ever heard, "Long Live The Queen" is a poignant tribute to life lost and the final few stanzas of "Love Ire & Song" are simply sublime.
What helps is Turner's impeccable vocal delivery. It's a fundamentally British voice; the accent makes that clear as well as the geography of "To Take You Home," but the passion and delivery behind it transcends any idea of it being a localised taste. While it may not be as obviously captivating as Dallas Green or as rough-n-ready as Mike Ness, it instead sits somewhere in the middle. Backed up by an impressive array of instrumentation that all seems to fit together exceptionally well, it creates a sound that practically anyone can enjoy on a variety of levels, as can be seen by the huge variety you can see in the audience at any Frank Turner gig.
If I had to be critical, and I suppose for the sake of balance I probably should, I could point out that there's not a great deal of originality here. While the musicianship, vocals and lyrics are all exceptional, the style they represent is as old as the guitar itself, and the content is little more than a modern twist on the personal and political revolutions folk singers have been espousing for decades. But then there's a reason why Turner is still leaning on a style older than he himself is: it's timeless, and those folk singers who manage to capture the true spirit and feel of it become timeless themselves.
And anyway, to focus on such criticisms would be to fundamentally miss the point of Love Ire & Song. It is a celebration of life, and all the positive and negative things which constitute it; best friends, drunken nights in the local pub, lost loves, the passage of time and burning ideologies which all motivate the paths we take and the choices we make. Rarely has there been a celebration as joyous, poetic and meaningful as Turner has managed to create here. It's a classic folk album performed by one of the finest singer-songwriters recording right now; the perfect marriage of the passion of punk and the poignancy of folk into a perfectly distilled union. Plus if you buy the most recent release you get the 23 song B-Side album The First Three Years for free, and who can say no to that?
This also is one of my favorite albums of all time. Completely bursting at the seams with emotion, optimism and sincerity, I can't quite fall in love with an album the way I have fallen in love with this one.